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Two Yugo

The Yugo is a subcompact car made by the Zastava automobile works in Kragujevac, Serbia and Montenegro, 40 miles south of Belgrade.

Between 1986 and 1991, while the former Yugoslavia still existed, it was also imported into the American market by Yugo America, a company founded by Malcolm Bricklin.

The car's design was very similar to the Fiat 127, a popular model of the early 1970s, and was the product of a long-standing working agreement between Zastava and Fiat, a major Italian car maker.

Zastava still sells cars in Europe under both the Zastava and Yugo brand names, but the production is about ten thousand a year (as of 2004), approx. 3000 of them are hatchbacks and sedans based on Fiat 128. The Yugo models have included Yugo 45, Yugo 55, Yugo 65, Yugo Koral, Yugo Tempo, Yugo Cabrio, etc. Zastava has produced over 750,000 Yugo cars since the introduction of the series in 1980. Their Florida line of cars also evolved from the Yugo design.

U.S. History

Introduced in the summer of 1986 at a price of less than $4000, it was by far the lowest-priced new car available in the USA at the time, and it sold very well at first. But its quality led Consumer Reports to call it "one of the worst cars [the magazine had] ever tested." By the early 1990s, Yugo America floundered and Zastava withdrew the car from the US market due to severe restrictions placed on trade with Yugoslavia because of the alleged involvement of its then-current government in the Yugoslav wars.

In the United States, Yugo developed a reputation as being very unreliable and dangerous, despite the fact the cars passed all quality checks upon importation.

Three models of Yugo were sold in the United States: The basic GV hatchback version, the race-inspired GV-X which, aside from cosmetic touches, was mechanically identical to the base car and, at the top of the price scale, a cabriolet-roofed convertible. All shared a high-compression 1.1 liter, 67 horsepower (50 kW) engine designed by Fiat for use in its 127 hatchback and mid-engined X1/9 roadster. The fact that the engine required the use of a high-grade motor oil designed for motorcycles is reported to have caused problems for Yugo owners despite the engine's reputation for durability in its original home country. Unfortunately, the rather robust engine was backed by a relatively weak Zastava four-speed manual transmission and clutch. No automatic transmission option was offered. Nevertheless, those familiar with the 127's prowess as an autocross racer meant that many a Yugo GV was modified with Abarth racing parts and sent to participate in SCCA-sanctioned events, notably in the organization's "Solo II" category.

Bricklin signed a deal with Zastava in 2002 to bring back the Yugo, a model tentatively called the ZMW. Zastava Motor Works USA, his company, expected to sell 60,000 cars in 2003. Because of the vehicle's problems, both real and perceived, this plan ultimately failed as well. This in turn led to a series of popular jokes and riddles about the car both in the US and even from Yugoslavia:

The Yugo in fiction

The Yugo's reputation as a lemon has survived in fiction long after the cars were still sold in the United States:




  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson test drives a car from a country that the dealer tells him "no longer exists", but the car "gets 400 hectares to a tank of kerosene." As Homer attempts to push-start the car, the dealer shouts: "Put it in 'H'!" The Croatian language (which uses the Roman alphabet) word for 'Neutral' is 'Neutralan', in Serbian (which uses the Cyrillic alphabet) the word would start with En, which does indeed look exactly like a Roman H. This fact is also used in Murder on the Orient Express.

Reference: Langenscheidt's Universal Dictionary: Croatian

External links

sr:Југо sv:Yugo


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